Opinion: 5 disasters that may be happening to your website right now

Credit: Sebastian Herrmann on Unsplash

Common site management errors and what to do about them

If you run a website, disasters can happen. Unfortunately, in my 15 years of doing technical SEO and marketing for sites, I’ve come across the following disasters much more often than I’d like to admit.

But the biggest disaster of all is not being aware or prepared. Here, Ive compiled a list of the most common website management errors and some steps you can take if you encounter them on your site.

1. You got hacked
Even though NASA and major banks get hacked, many site owners don’t expect it to happen to them. Anyone who builds or maintains websites knows how common hacking is. Rather than ignore this potential threat, you can take preventative measures, while also having a planned response if it does.

The most common hacks come through weak passwords. Check out haveibeenpwned.com, which allows you to see if your personal data has been compromised by any kind of a data breach. Other applications such as 1Password let you create and store your complex passwords.

Outdated WordPress plugins and themes are another easy place for hackers to target. So be sure to keep everything up-to-date, by securing your site with an SSL certificate and using tools like Cloudflare or the Shield Security plugin for WordPress to curb any threats.

2. Someone’s got access
Many hacked website owners don’t know anything has happened because it’s not immediately obvious. If a hacker can find a way to upload something to your server, why wouldn’t they continue exploiting it?

In addition to your hosting company, Webnames.ca has proactive scans to check for common spam. I’d recommend installing Google Search Console and performing regular audits on your own. One great trick is to find the keywords you rank for on Google and look deeply into your Analytics as a way to uncover any files you didn’t know you were hosting.

3. Your domain is gone
Domain names expire. When they do, it’s not just your website and email that will disappear; social platforms and company accounts may be lost as well if the email address that controls them is your work one. With the expired domain the hacker now owns, it’s easy for them to recreate your website email addresses and, by extension, become the new owner of your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube accounts. Major disaster.

Often a web design company will be the owner of the domain, which is not a best-case scenario. It’s better to get the domain name transferred over to your company, register it for a million years and ensure auto-renew is turned on. To find out who the owner and technical contacts are for your domain name, check the WHOIS record.

4. The robots are misbehaving
It’s common for a website to get 75 percent of its traffic from Google, so you could be turning away three-quarters of your audience if your robots file is misconfigured. Robots.txt is a file that can tell Google to avoid and ignore your website. It’s scary how frequently this is done incorrectly.

If you visit Nike’s robots file, youll see an exhaustive list of what it wants Google to show and what to ignore. Your file should be in a similar location, such as www.example.org/robots.txt. You’ll want to bring this to your team’s attention to ensure that your site has the Allows and Disallows correctly configured.

5. Your site is too slow
If your site is slow to load, especially on a phone, there’s little chance it will get used. People are lightning-fast to abandon ship on the Internet, and for good reason: this is the digital equivalent of terribly slow service at a restaurant.

You can always test and analyze your various pages with Google’s page speed insights, but my favourite is GTmetrix. Another way to check your page speed is through Google Analytics.

Josh Loewen is a co-founder of The Status Bureau, an SEO- and analytics-focused digital marketing agency in Vancouver. Since 2006, it has worked with organizations including Destination Canada, London Drugs, Telus Corp., the Vancouver Fringe Festival and Vancouver Mural Fest.